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Brenda Miller 

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pieces in this show is based on a sys- 
tem. Would you describe that system. 
BRENDA MILLER: The system is rela- 
tively simple. I use numerical sys- 
tems to determine the number of 
impressions which in turn cause dif- 
ferent densities. I chose the alphabet 
because it has every kind of linear 
mark that you can find. I wanted to 
see what would happen if I used all 
these marks — a circle, a curve, a 
diagonal, a horizontal. The alphabet 
gave me the size and the shape. 
First, I use the alphabet in its own 
order, so there is A-Z in normal se- 
quence. I then start again. On the 
second impression Z is eliminated. 
I keep eliminating the last letter 
until the entire alphabet is stamped 
in one place from A on top to Z on 

You talked about having three parts 
to your work, the drawing, the dia- 
gram and the wall installation. 
Well, the drawing is less of a part. I 
use the drawings to check out the 
diagrams. The diagrams act like maps 
which tell me how to make the in- 

Do you feel your pieces exist apart 
from their physical manifestations? 
They always exist. For me they exist 
in a number of ways. They exist in a 
diagram that is the map of the work 
and they exist when put into their 
physical space. The Indians in New 
Mexico make sand paintings which 
can travel. There was no need to 
preserve art; the same drawing was 
passed through the generations, yet 
each transient drawing was perma- 

What is your view toward materality? 
Your earlier string pieces had a strong 
sense of materials about them, and 
the rubber stamp pieces have much 

less material impact. Is that impor- 
tant at all? 

Yes . . . but my sense of materials 
has to do with finding the best ma- 
terial for the work. The materials are 
important, but they're not the goal. 
The pieces are not precious objects. 
I really wanted to move away from 
the idea of preciousness. 

In the stamp pieces, if you look at 
the diagram you understand the 
underlying system, but if you look at 
the pieces themselves there is a 
sense of mystery about what exactly 
the concept or the system is. 

The systems are not that complicated, 
but I do admit I like intrigue. 

Do you see the systems as being 
visually evident in the work? 
Yes. They can exist at different times 
or sometimes exist or not exist in 
their physical forms, but they are not 

Do you use the system as a means 
rather than an end in itself? 

Yes, as a means. 

You've mentioned that you think of 
yourself as a sculptor. Do you want to 
go into that? 

I think of myself as a sculptor al- 
though my feeling is that it is un- 
fortunate that we have to be one or 
the other. When these pieces are 
finally done they are three dimen- 
sional and they are conceived of as 
three dimensional even in the rubber 
stamp pieces. 

Because of the overlay? 

Yes, the impressions cause density. 

You can see the density. 

You mentioned that your first pieces 

were rugs. Is that how you started 


No, I didn't, I was a painter. When 

I stopped painting I began to make 

rugs. I was trying to make a very soft 
surface and still use the same kind of 
image that I had painted. At a certain 
point I became less interested in the 
image and more interested in the 
back of the cloth. Now I think more 
about the materials I use as opposed 
to letting the materials lead me. I 
think it works hand in hand; you 
can't help but let your material lead 
you, but also you can select the 

You don't seem very interested in 
color apart from the given color of 
the materials. 

I've chosen to eliminate color be- 
cause it interferes with the configura- 
tion of the piece. Some of the 
changes are so subtle that any altera- 
tion of color would alter the con- 
figuration. The first stamp piece I did 
was in blue ink because I happened 
to have a blue ink pad. When I 
finished the piece and I looked at it 
itdisappeared intothewall. The blue 
pencil is an editing pencil and I use 
it with that in mind. 

You were actively involved with the 
women's movement. Do you think 
that influenced the way your work 
went oryourability to use materials? 
In a sense I think that it did. I 
believe that it allowed me to be more 
courageous about what I wanted to 
do. I realized that I had nothing to 

You once talked about the fact that 
your work was literalist, that you 
were interested in a real space, not 
an illusionary space. 
Yes. I work in a real space. When 
I make the stamp pieces there are 
x number of impressions. I did an 
edition of one of these pieces and 
it took a while to convince the printer 
to not just set the type all at once and 
photograph it. Each impression had 

to go through the press, in this case, 
thirteen times. And it was all printed 
in black ink and he couldn't under- 
stand why it had to be printed that 
way because it would have been so 
much simpler to do it the other way 
and so much cheaper too. He was 
making more money but he was an 
honorable man and it took a lot of 
explaining and convincing that this 
was very important. You can clearly 
see the different letters in the dif- 
ferent impressions. 

Do you use the structure or grid sys- 
tem as a way of working through 
these ideas about density? 
The interesting thing is that I made 
ceiling/floor pieces initially that 
made different kinds of densities. I 
mean, if you had the identical thing 
on the floor as on the ceiling, the 
configuration would be very dif- 
ferent. When I began working on the 
walls I began working with a differ- 
ent kind of density. You could leave 
these big long wide spaces and still 
create a kind of density. 
Do you adopt a system as a means 
of getting rid of compositional deci- 

Absolutely. I make the initial deci- 
sion and choose to stay with it. I 
select a specific "grammar" to work 

Are any of your decisions about the 
pieces made empirically, or do you 
work from an absolutely precon- 
ceived system? 

Well, both. I first start working with 
the pieces and they are made be- 
cause that is what I want to do. I 
make a piece and then I diagram it 
and then I work from the diagram. 
A diagram or piece is capable of gen- 
erating itself. The plan always exists 
whether or not it's written down 

Brenda Miller 

1941 Born in the Bronx, New York 
1963 Certificate, Parsons School of Design, New York 
1965 B.F.A., University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 
1967 M.F.A., Tulane University, New Orleans, Loui- 
Lives in New York City 

Individual Exhibitions 

1974 Samangallery, Genoa, Italy 
Arte Per, Rome 

1975 City University Graduate Center, New York 

Croup Exhibitions 

1971 Greene Street, New York. Two exhibitions, 
Winter and Fall. 

The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 
Ridgefield, Connecticut, "26 Contemporary 
Women Artists," April 18-)une 13. Illustrated 
catalogue, with introduction by Lucy R. 

1972 John Weber Gallery, New York, "Group 
Show," January-February. Exhibition selected 
by Carl Andre; included work by Laurace 
James, Mary Obering, Nancy Holt and Andre. 
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 
Member's Penthouse, "Untitled IV," April. 
Kunsthaus, Hamburg, Germany, "Gedok 
American Women Artist Show," April 14-May 
14. Illustrated catalogue, with introduction by 
Lil Picard. 

John Weber Gallery, New York, "Group 
Show." Exhibition included work by Nancy 
Holt, Laurace James, Carl Andre, Hans 
Haacke, Mary Obering. 

Kingsboro Community College, Brooklyn, 
New York. 

The Kenan Center, Lockport, New York, "Ten 
Artists* (* who also happen to be women)," 
November 17, 1972-January 14, 1973. Illus- 
trated catalogue, with text by Lucy R. Lippard. 
Exhibition traveled to the Michael C. Rocke- 
feller Arts Center Gallery, Fredonia State Uni- 
versity College, Fredonia, New York, January 
19-February 18. 

1973 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 
"1973 Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary 
American Art," January 10-March 18. Illus- 
trated catalogue. 

New York Cultural Center, "Soft as Art," 
March 20-May 6. Illustrated catalogue, with 
text by Mario Amaya. 

Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotter- 
dam, The Netherlands, September. 

1974 Museum of the Civic Center, Philadelphia, 
"Women's Work-American Art 1974 " 

The Clocktower, New York, "Discussions: 
WorksAA'ords." May 11 -June 1. 
The Women's Interart Center, New York, 
"Wall Sculpture." 

1975 William Patterson College of New Jersey, 
Wayne. Exhibition organized by John Perrault. 


(not including reviews) 

Broos, Kees. Museum journal , "een muurobject van 

Brenda Miller," series 18, no. 5, October 1973, p. 214, 


Tower, Susan. "The Object Perceived/The Object 

Apprehended," Artforum, vol. 12, January 1974, pp. 

40-42, illus. 

Weatherford, Elizabeth. "Crafts for Art's Sake," 

Ms. Magazine, vol. 1, May 1973, pp. 28-32, illus. 


Dimensions are in inches, height preceding width. 
All works are from 1975 and are lent by the artist 
unless otherwise noted. 

Wall Installations 

V* inch rubber stamp with black ink and blue pencil 
on wall, 52 x 52: 

1. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior North 

2. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior South 

3. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior East 

4. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior West 

5. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior North 

6. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior South 

7. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior East 

8. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior West 


Black ink on paper, 17 x 17: 

9. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior North 

10. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior South 
Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York 

11. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior West 
Nell E. Wendler, London 

12. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior East 

13. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior North 
Private collection, the Netherlands 

14. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior South 
Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York 

15. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior East 

16. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior West 


Black ink on graph paper, 17 x 17: 

17. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior North 

18. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior South 

19. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior East 

20. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Interior West 

21. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior North 

22. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior South 

23. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior East 

24. Diagonal Alphabet (26) Exterior West 

December 22, 1975 — January 18, 1976 

Whitney Museum of American Art 

945 Madison Avenue 
New York, New York 10021 

Cover: Diagonal Alphabet (261 Exterior East , 1975 
Photograph by Eeva-inkeri